Monday, October 13, 2008

The Dating Game: How Young Is Too Young?

A year ago I discovered someone had left a teenage girl on my doorstep. We’ve adopted her but it’s taken a little getting used to—having a young woman around instead of a little girl. I guess you could say we’re both getting used to each other.

She’s nearly as tall as Andrew, she’s grown into her permanent teeth and she describes her surroundings using words like “sick” (that means something’s good) and “tight” (also meriting approval) and suddenly wants to talk about boys. Fictional boys (Edward Cullen), celebrity boys (David Archuleta), neighborhood boys (who shall remain nameless), boys at school and church and boys on the corner at the mall.

With all this boy-talk we’ve been forced to confront some new issues around here: I guess you’d call them “rules of engagement”—or how we’re going to deal with this new phenomenon of adolescence. We’re hardly veterans here but here are a few of the terms we’ve come to agree upon, a few of the things we've been discussing for quite a while so that nothing was a shock when it came down to it.

No Dating Until Age Sixteen--Period.
If you believe my son there are kids in his 5th grade class that pair up and go on dates together. I do take that information with a grain of salt—according to him all the kids in his class can stay up as late as they want, have televisions and Wiis in their bedrooms and are allowed to see any movie they want so let’s just say I’m suspicious.

Children don’t have the social skills necessary to handle dating in those early teen years, they’re just beginning to get their heads around the feelings of attraction to the opposite sex and the parts of their brains governing things like self-control and common sense aren’t developed enough to safely navigate the perils of interpersonal, intimate relationships between men and women. And we are talking things pertaining to men and women here--these are adult feelings and adult situations and not to be treated lightly.

There’s no need for teens to begin dating younger than sixteen—it’s not as if the girls need to get a jump on the competition and find themselves a man before all the good ones are taken. We’re not talking an after Thanksgiving sale here people, we’re talking about allowing children to delve into complex areas of life and growth that many adults haven’t yet mastered. Let them wait, they just don’t need to race into something that has so many opportunities for disaster and every reason for prudence.

Practically speaking—why date before you can drive anyway? What’s the point of “going out” when Mommy and Daddy are the chauffeurs? It just emphasizes the fact that they’re too young to maturely handle the situation and makes you feel like you're playing at something that shouldn't at all be considered a game.

Now this hasn’t necessarily been a popular decision here but there is enough wisdom in it that our daughter deals with it fairly gracefully—I said fairly—which is a good sign because if she’s mature enough to agree to this restriction then it shows she’s becoming mature enough to deal with the situations that will come her way when she is allowed to date.

If she were to throw a fit and demand to be able to see boys right now it would just be proof that she isn’t ready to be let lose socially. Throwing a temper tantrum when things aren’t to your liking just shows that you aren’t adult enough to control your emotions and desires—a key point in any relationships but most important when it comes to feelings involving romance and hormones.

Focus on Group Dating
Luckily Grace has some wonderful friends her age and I’m hoping that when she becomes old enough to date that they’re able to do a lot of group dating. I’m not talking about “hanging out” together—there’s plenty of that and it’s rather counter productive to learning about meaningful relationships—I’m talking about organized, planned activities where the couples are actually paired up, not merely mingling around indecisively like some herd of cattle.

Ease into things, have them wait until they're sixteen then take it slow and encourage group dates. Young men and women can still learn what they need to learn about relating to one another within the bounds of a small group and it removes so much of the dangers and pressures associated with going out one-on-one.

This doesn’t mean that we have a policy of group dates only it just means that we want to encourage Grace to get to know young men more this way at first than by sitting alone in a car with a guy when she really knows so little about boys. This means we’d like to make our home available to her and her friends when they want to plan those kinds of activities, to encourage her to invite her dates to join us in family activities rather than leaving her to discover the mysteries of men all alone at such a young age.

No Steady Dating
High school really isn’t the time for having a serious boyfriend, having one at sixteen or seventeen adds a huge distraction for teenagers who are typically over scheduled as it is. Wait until college for an exclusive relationship—that’s the time when you can begin to think about where a relationship is going, how it’s progressing, where’s it’s leading—marriage, family, planning a life together—in high school an exclusive relationship usually only leads to one thing and it’s not marriage or a mature, committed relationship.

Besides, nowadays it’s generally agreed upon that once you start dating someone regularly then you’re off-limits to all others. The early stages of dating aren’t for seeing how tightly one can attach to one person, they’re for learning how to interact with others, about who other people are and who you are, what you want in Mr. Right and how you can be the kind of quality person your Mr. Right would chose to be with. This can best be done without a steady boyfriend but with a variety of experiences from a variety of young men.

The bottom line is that there’s a time for everything in life and the early teen years aren’t the time for dating and serious relationships with the opposite sex. There is nothing to gain and everything to lose from rushing into such a delicate area of life. Think about your own life—it’s those relationships built around marriage, dating and family that shape our lives and to give children access to this before they’re ready is not only foolish but dangerous.

You wouldn’t hand your children the keys to the car before they know how to safely drive, why would you allow them access to something that is just as dangerous to their emotional and spiritual safety?

After all, even with all the changes our society has seen aren’t the best things in life still worth waiting for?


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Technorati tags: parenting, motherhood, dating


ewe are here said...

I can't argue with any of this. I feel much the same way, especially the 'no exclusivity' rule while they're still teenagers... I don't want them 'committing' while they're still in high school; I want them to get out with lots of people, learn to socialize, and especially not screw up their lives with an accidental pregnancy.

Pumpkin said...

My parents didn't let me go out on a date until I was almost sixteen. I think it was good that I was made to wait so long while all my friends were already going out on 'group dates'. However, I think I could have waited until I was at least sixteen and a half. I wasn't mature enough and when the guy tried all the moves I freaked out. I was terrified.

I think it depends on the teenager and how mature they are. However, I think at least sixteen is a good starting point.

Tiff said...

I have a 12 yr old and we had to lay down the dating rules early. She informed us she had a boyfriend the year before. Thank goodness it was merely platonic but it scared me into setting an age limit on the dating scene. I'm new at this teenager thing. It's harder with girls isn't it?

Anonymous said...

I started dating at 11. School dances and trips to amusement parks mostly. Our parents ferried us around and it didn't really bother us all that much. It gave us an incredibly safe point from which to view the beginnings of a relationship. I didn't have to worry about a boy making moves on me when he was sitting in the backseat with my dad driving or in broad daylight at a public place. It was more like being best friends with a guy- looking back, but it was a valuable experience. Dating with training wheels, so to speak.

By the time I was 16, I'd had one semi-steady boyfriend under my belt (to be fair, we spent years of that states away closer to pen pals than a couple- although at the time it was very dramatic) and I got into the swing of dating at a high school level I was a lot more comfortable with dealing with boys. I not only knew how to say no- but I had practice with it. I'd been touched in a casual manner by guys and I'd even been kissed a couple of times- stolen kisses that were always brief because we were either in public or had parents chasing us down. It wasn't confusingly new.

Anyway- everyone sets up their families differently. No wrong answer. I had several friends who started dating much later (one who didn't have a date until college). But, looking back, I do respect my parent's choice to chaperone the first couple years of dating without it feeling like they were butting into my newfound driver's freedom. They felt confident that when they let me loose with my first boyfriend with a car- I wasn't going to get in trouble. That was a lot of trust... and it felt like a responsibility I knew how to handle.

I met my husband at 14 though. We didn't date until 17 and we didn't marry until 23- It's been another 5 years since then- but it's possible, although unlikely, to identify what you want younger than expected... and to actually have it work out. We were pretty good kids though. It's not necessarily a bad thing for teens to start identifying what they want out of a partner even if they don't expect to run off and marry them. If nothing else- it's practice at finding good relationships. =)

Pam said...

I understand things are a lot different nowadays anyway, such that group occasions and parties can be what you really need to be scared of - kids pairing up with somebody random for the evening, sex "games" etc. So I think you should also ban going to parties. Even in college there is much less one-to-one dating that happens, which is sad, because the boys don't learn how to treat a girl well, as in even having to phone one up and ask her out.

Beth (A Mom's Life) said...

I think no steady dating in high school is a great concept but how will you enforce it?

Ack! I can't even handle the early elemenatry years...the teenage years are going to be really tough!

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

This is an excellent book. I gave it to both of my current teens to read. I'd be interested to hear your take on it.

Sheri said...

I agree with you completely. I have a 13 year old son, we aren't even close to needing to have a rule setting discussion, but I already know we want to follow the guidlines you've set for your daughter.

Kids these days seem to be rushing to be grownup, to discover everything at such a young age. I want mine to be kids as long as possible.

Scribbit said...

Beth--Well I think being able to communicate well first of all--having a history of reasonable boundaries will give you more credibility in the important things when they come along. Being in control (and I don't mean this in an authoritarian way but in a way that establishes you as a the regulator in your home) from the early years so that children respect that you are the parent and have their best interests at heart and then talking about these kinds of things early before they're an issue. If you start discussing these kinds of things when they're 11 or 12 or before they're an emotional topic then the rules will be a given when they are an issue.

As for enforcing the no steady dating thing specifically, I think it's a matter of first being aware of what your children are doing--who are they seeing, where are they, what are they doing? That kind of thing and then keeping an eye on things from the beginning--as in being viigilant to spot problems before they become problems. My parents were high school sweethearts and were an item from age 16 on but their parents told them they couldn't go out together more than once a month by themselves but they could see each other at family activitiies, church activities, and group social events during that month which was not only wise in that it kept them from becoming too serious too early but it gave them a chance to see each other in varied settings.

Flea said...

We've had a similar conversation here with two teenagers. With both we've stressed group dating after 16. And it's conditional based on their maturity level. Meaning hormones have turned one of them into a complete whacko.

Have I told you my "cheesecake is like sex" story about dating? It's what I tell the kids.

Michemily said...

I totally agree! Dating should start way late and way slow. I always agreed with the thing about why would you want to have your parents drive you . . . until I lived in Europe and most people don't have cars or licenses anyway.

Scribbit said...

Karen--sounds like an interesting book from the description.

One thing I worry about when girls date so young is that they learn early to base their self-image and self-worth on the male attention they receive, that they need a boyfriend to be pretty or valuable. It's so self-destructive that I think waiting until later in the teen years when you're slightly more sure of yourself and have had a chance to learn more of who you are is so important. Thanks for the link.

MoziEsmé said...

Wow - sounds like you've thought this one out well, and I think I agree. We haven't even really considered getting here yet, but at the age kids are starting to date these days, we'd better decide our policy pretty quickly!

Erica said...

Gosh, I was engaged at sixteen and I'm happy to say that ten years later we're still together, happy, married and have one child. Thinking back we were young but we were really level-headed and just new that we were right together.

As a parent I probably won't enforce an age limit, and things are a little different here in the UK, kids seem to grow up faster and transport isn't as much of an issue due to geographics. I hope that during our daughter's younger years we can teach her about respect, love and relationships. If we meet someone that meets our approval then there will be more allowances on dating and staying over. I'd like the 'boyfriend' to join in with family activities, mealtimes , holidays etc.. which means we can get to know him better. I think this is better than a blanket ban.

Chilihead said...

Excellent post! I have friends who are letting their children date exclusively--they started in 5th grade and are in 6th now. Ridiculous. As the mom's good friend, I've voiced my opinion (good friends can do that), but it hasn't made a difference. I realize I can't change her mind, but it doesn't mean I'm going to let my son/daughter do the same thing. I'm with you.

Awesome Mom said...

I didn't date at all in High School. My dad was a high school teacher and the father of four girls. He hated teen aged boys and I was scared to bring one home.

The Source said...

A mom after my own heart. Our rules ar dating until 16. My daughter can say she "has a botfriend" all she wants to, but they are only seeing each other at school and church. He can sit next to her if he wants, but it's going to take a special kind of teenage boy to want to sit next to her and her daddy!

Seriously, on the subject of 5th graders, my twins were having lunch last week at school while a classmate told them about her cousin who "dances naked on poles for boys". Shocked does not begin to describe how I felt on hearing THAT little bit of news!

Kelly @ Love Well said...

Great post, Michelle. You make many good points.

But I have a practical question: How would you prevent Grace from getting too serious at a young age? I agree with you that it's better to save an exclusive, serious relationship for college. But when I was 17, I got very serious with my boyfriend. My parents didn't like it, but I can't think of anything they could have done to stop me from feeling those intense feelings. They kept advising me to play it more loose, to not lock myself in. But I didn't see their wisdom.

I've often wondered how I would deal with my own daughter in the same scenario.

cndymkr / jean said...

Two years ago, new to the middle school, my son came home and told me that some of the kids were dating. I almost died laughing. Not the best way to handle it but I just couldn't picture it. Since then we've had talks about it but for him it isn't a big deal - yet. I imagine he'll be a late bloomer which is fine. Still you have to wonder what parents are thinking when they allow their preteen to date.

Heidi Saxton said...

You inspired me to write my own post this morning:

My parents had the same rules about no dating before sixteen -- and yet none of us emerged unscathed in our dating relationships. Out-of-wedlock pregnancies, STDs, abortion, domestic violence ... you name it, we got it in one form or another.

The thing we were missing was the rock-solid belief that only the best kind of man deserved us -- and that we would give our hearts only the man who demonstrated that he could be trusted to protect and cherish us.

I agree sixteen (or even college) is soon enough. But unless we instill that kind of confidence in our daughters (and respect in our sons), the story won't end well.

SabineM said...

I agree with you. My daughter is 14. And my rule was 15..... and it is group dating.
LUCKILY for us, she is SUPER busy in the horse world and that gives her very little time outside of school and the barn (the barn being 98% girls, 2 % boys, and out of those 2%, I would say 99% are not interested in girls--so that makes MY job easy)....

My daughter is very mature for her age...having said that, I won't tell her that and hope that she doesn't' found someone until she is 25! ;)

Lara said...

All excellent points. Things my parents did for me, and I am so glad they did, even though I didn't appreciate it at the time.

I am scared for when teenagers start coming to live in my house.

Blessed said...

I am the oldest of 4 girls and my Dad had a pretty effective way of making sure there were no "serious" relationships when we were still in high school - he simply told us that he wouldn't give us his permission to marry before we were 21. If we chose to do so that was our choice but we would be doing it without the benefit of knowing that he was happy about the marriage. My Dad actively worked at having an awesome relationship with all of us as individuals so that rule was very effective - none of us wanted to disappoint him.

Also we couldn't date until we were 16 and those dates had to be chaperoned or group dates in public settings with no alone in the car time with a guy. Once we were 18 those restrictions went away. As long as we lived at home Daddy expected to be introduced to the guy before we dated him and we had to be home by midnight or have a good reason why we weren't home. So far his rule has worked out pretty well.

I had a couple of "boyfriends" while still in high school but didn't really get serious with anyone until college. I married when I was 24.

jubilee said...

Couldn't agree more.

I was relieved when my parents held to their "no dating until you are sixteen" rule. It let me off the hook when guys weren't beating down the front door. Plus, I could only double date or group date. I was allowed to go on single dates when I turned 17. And while I was excited about the new freedom, I honestly was more terrified of what may be expected of me as a date, if you catch my drift. Group dating helped eliminate many of the pitfalls b/c I was able to weed out the undesirables, so to speak.

And I am glad my parents were "mean". I have fewer regrets with regard to dating.

I was able to save so much for the man I married. I wasn't jaded with the process like a lot of my friends who dated a lot and at an earlier age. And I didn't feel the pressure of giving myself away. Being a teen is difficult enough. Save the dating for when you have a little more self awareness - and self control.

Barb said...

I believe your son. My daughter Mandy teaches fifth grade. I absolutely believe your son.

Your thoughts on dating are dead on, Michelle. I completely agree with you and this is pretty much exactly the way Rob and I handled this issue with our two girls.

Janet said...

I thoroughly agree. I wasn't allowed to date until I was 16, which was a moot point since no one asked me, but still. I definitely wasn't ready. I do wish I'd been told more about what boys would do because I had no idea how to act when I got to college and there were boys interested in me.

Rhonda said...

We have all the same rules and have, to this date...knock on wood...yet to be challenged.

That with four daughters (3 out the door, one 15 year old at home) and one 9 year old son. Living in Connecticut where many other like minded parents in our small community circle agree, helps this cause.

Always helps when moms and dads unite. This is not to say that there are not parents out there who allow dating before 16, there is of course. My kids just know our boundaries and respect themselves to stay within those boundaries.

As families we would take turns hosting a "youth night" in our homes. Movie or game nights with fun times (always chaperoned) and with LOTS of fun food made for the best activities with our kids.

Although, I certainly am not a big advocate of just "hanging out either" so we always had organized time... our oldest children set the standard of no dating until 16, and never had a desire to have the one on one with a steady boyfriend even after age 18. They always joked that steady dating and the whole boyfriend/girlfriend thing, while in high school was "SOOO over-rated."

Two girls married, one in college and one in HS, they all have healthy attitudes about themselves and have told me a lot that they never had a need to "get tied down" so young.

Parenting! Gotta love it.

Rhonda said...


I meant to say "...never had a desire to have the one on one with a steady boyfriend even BEFORE age 18."

NOT "....even AFTER age 18"

I don't have a complete bunch of social "misfits."

Chris said...

My girl is six so I'm not thinking of it yet. I'll probably cross that bridge when I come to it and decide on a case by case basis. I won't say definitely not until 16 though. (My husband would say 30.)

Motherboard said...

Amen!! Those are our standards here as well. We started our conversations about when you can date at a very early age... that way my kids have just grown up knowing that there is absolutely NO dating before 16. The rules were laid out long before the need, so they already accept the rule.

It's easier to make the rules when they are little... it makes for less drama later!

Great post!

32 Flavors said...

I am getting cold chills just reading this post. My girls are young and I'm glad I don't even have to think about how to approach this subject, for a while. 16 is the rule for us as well, and I agree that throwing a tantrum is a good sign of not being reading to date....

Jen Rouse said...

Amen! sounds like wondefurl ideas to me.

Lis Garrett said...

Michelle, where were you when I was your daughter's age and needed parental authority??

Now, I consider myself to be a fairly level-headed person as an adult. But when I was 16 (and 17 and 18) my mother gave me no guidance whatsoever with regards to dating (or much of anything), and it was only for the fact that I was so uptight and straightlaced (for the most part) that I managed to navigate my teenage years with no real lasting scars. However, I did make a few errors in judgment that could have, how can I say this delicately, ended up as lifelong reminders as to the errors of my youth.

I know I will be very involved in my kids' relationships with friends and boyfriends/girlfriends when they get older.

Lis Garrett said...

Michelle, where were you when I was your daughter's age and needed parental authority??

Now, I consider myself to be a fairly level-headed person as an adult. But when I was 16 (and 17 and 18) my mother gave me no guidance whatsoever with regards to dating (or much of anything), and it was only for the fact that I was so uptight and straightlaced (for the most part) that I managed to navigate my teenage years with no real lasting scars. However, I did make a few errors in judgment that could have, how can I say this delicately, ended up as lifelong reminders as to the errors of my youth.

I know I will be very involved in my kids' relationships with friends and boyfriends/girlfriends when they get older.

alice c said...

I am the mother of 2 teenagers (18 + 16) and I was a teenager once. In my experience...if you have a good enough relationship with your teenage children to lay down rules and expect them to be obeyed you haven't got anything to be worried about. If you haven't got that sort of relationship you had better be prepared for a rocky ride.

Anonymous said...

I can disagree with most of this because my daughter and son read "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" (author?) and totally bought into the philosophy that "dating is just divorce practice" so they chose to not date in high school. They'd do activities with the opposite-sex in group settings only. This allowed them a huge opportunity to get-to-know others and took all the pressure off them. I love that expression "divorce-practice" because that's certainly what all my break-ups with boyfriends felt like in school. Who needs all that grief and pressure. My kids sure didn't. - Julia

Musings of a Housewife said...

I haven't thought much about this yet but I like your approach. I had to be 16 to date, but fortunately I didn't have a lot of offers so it didn't create issues with my parents. :-)

PinkDaisyGirl said...

How about not dating until you're old enough to get married?

We have talked about courtship with our children for some time now. We didn't wait until they were old enough to be interested in the opposite sex and then throw it on them. That would not have been accepted very well more than likely. Now, it is something that seems perfectly normal to them.

I started dating my husband exclusively when we were both a fairly brand new 15 and in 9th grade. We were married at 19 and have now been married 23 years. I think we are the exception.

Enjoyed reading your post about this topic.

~ Kayren

Scribbit said...

Popping in here to chime in--

Thanks for all the comments and experiences, I love hearing what your own dating rules were like and if they worked or not.

Though I do have to say that as for not dating at all until you're ready for marriage I suppose that depends on what you mean by "Dating." If by dating you mean living as if you're married then no, I'd oppose that too. If however you mean going out on a planned activity with a member of the opposite sex for a social experience then I think that's pretty critical to a healthy future relationship. Unless of course we plan on reverting to arranged marriages where the burden of choosing a spouse is left to the parents. Meeting people one-on-one, observing their character, learning whether you fit well as a couple, learning how to interact in social situations--dating is invaluable to these healthy life lessons so I'd say it's pretty critical if you want to be able to feel confident in your choice of a spouse.

Leslie said...

I couldn't agree more! Thanks!!!

Richelle said...

Very well said!

Anonymous said...

My daughter will be 16 in a few months. She is homeschooled and meets very few boys - by her choice, not mine. She can't even look at a boy she likes. I don't know if this is a good thing or bad thing, but I do think she's in no rush. Interestingly, when she was 13yrs old we let her play Teen Second Life - it's an online social environment. She learned some stuff about how to make friends and got herself a boyfriend. She knew the rules about not revealing her real identity. It ended up kind of cute - they mostly held hands. I think she learned some more about her own feelings. It allowed her to explore and satisfy her curiosity and she did not want to go beyond that. Two years later she still has her Second Life 'boyfriend' and they have each other's IM addresses. They never play Second Life and hardly ever communicate, but she has 'kept' him because I think it allows her to avoid the question of what she'd do if she met someone she likes. It lets her keep up a little safety barrier. Likely it will be years before she dates seriously. I had my first boyfriend at 20yrs old, by my choice.

Fawn said...

An interesting post, and one that surprised me. I'm surprised because I have a pretty conservative background and my parents were very strict with me.

I had my first "steady" boyfriend just before I turned 15, and it took me two weeks to work up the nerve to tell them. The town I'd just moved to was one where kids started having sex very early. I was the only virgin in the entire class.

At 14, I knew myself well enough to know that I didn't want to sleep with a guy that I wasn't interested in marrying. I also knew that the guy I was dating was not the person I would marry. I think I had pretty reasonable expectations of what "dating" means at that age.

It was a very small town, so most of our activities were with friends and to places that were walkable. Perhaps if chauffeuring had been necessary, dating would have looked different.

We dated for almost two years when I found out he'd cheated on me by sleeping with a girl in my class. I instantly dumped him. Yes, it was devastating for a time, but I don't regret that experience for a moment. Life can be painful, and yet the world must go on... which it did.

When I got to university, I wouldn't consider dating anyone seriously unless they were potential marriage material. It was just a natural evolution.

My younger sister's dating experiences run in a similar vein, although she didn't have to agonize over telling our parents, since I'd already broken that ice.

All this is a long-winded way of saying that, in my opinion, a girl who has self-confidence and strong values can certainly be trusted to "date" before the age of 16. But hey, your house, your rules, and I really doubt your daughter will grow up and think, "Whoa, my parents were totally unfair with that rule."

Laurel Nelson said...

Too bad the rules that kids abide by don't allow for this...I had the same rules growing up that you are setting for your daughter, however where I grew up, if a guy said "do you want to go out with me" that meant "do you want to be my exclusive girlfriend and see nobody else but me"...if you wanted to go out with guy A on Friday and then the next Friday go out with guy B, then you were labeled with not nice names that begin with an H and rhyme with Row...
I hope it's different here in Alaska but if it's not I don't know what I'm going to do with my girls.

By the way, in 5th grade some of the kids were pairing off exclusively with one another in boyfriend/girlfriend relationships...and they could see any movie they wanted, I knew many kids who saw R rated films in 3rd grade or younger, and a lot did have TV's and video games and the like in their rooms...unfortunately your son's tales are probably not far off base.

luckyzmom said...

How your husband treats you and that he gives her love and attention is paramount. That said I agree with you.

When our daughter was about 18, she thought she was totally in love with this guy and would be forever and later told me that they contemplated eloping. But, before that could happen, I had a talk with her. I didn't invalidate her feelings, but I told her that if this were meant to be forever, there wasn't any reason to rush into anything. She has been eternally grateful for that conversation and we now refer to the guy as "Icky Dave".

Wish I had this post before I even had kids.

Marivic_Little GrumpyAngel said...

As a mother of dating age teens I found myself nodding my head all throughout this post. I read somewhere that our brains don't reach it's fully developed stage until age 21. So that right there is a perfect argument for why dating is a bad idea before 16. I was going to say before 21,but there will be a revolt in my household:-)

dpenguin said...

I don't know where you fall on the "religion" scale... but I think all Christians ought to listen to brother S.M. Davis' messages about dating and betrothal at (bottom of the page).

Would you allow her to marry at 16?

The Dating Game - as you very appropriately called it - has a bad habit of teaching teens about LACKING commitment while still stirring up the physical attractions and feelings that are best left until marriage.

Just my (dissenting ;-) ) thoughts.

Val said...

I met my husband when we were 17 and started dating in high school. I feel blessed.

chelle said...

I totally agree!!! I am not sure how to stop the getting serious part without promoting secrecy but there will be no dating till they are sixteen in our house! I wish someone anyone would have done the same for me growing up.

Marcia said...

My oldest son and I were talking about his teenage sister on Saturday. He ask if she had a boyfriend. I sad no and reminded him that she is only 14 years-old. He asked when she might start dating and I told him what she had told me. College! or later.

She goes out with her friends (male and female group of about 5) to the movies and the mall or arcade and I am usually the designated driver. I am frequently invited to join them for a movie although I am not allowed to sit with them which suits me just fine.

The last movie we saw was this Friday - Quarantine! Actually, they could not get in without me. It is rated R. It was really scary but the kids enjoyed it.

mumple said...

I'm learning that what was unreasonable to me then is waaaaayyyyyyy reasonable now.

I may be able to get my sweetie to agree to let the Howler date by 20 (He's trying for 34 or so, and I'd be happy with 16.)

mumple said...

Thinking on this a smidge more, can I add a loud "And no 6 year old needs a boyfriend!"

We don't use the language of "he's my boyfriend" or "she's my girl friend" while we in elementary school (or younger). By the time they're in middle school, or HS, they just don't think that way.

The Howler talks about boys who are friends (and we're VERY specific on the terminology she's using).

Of course, she's still fixated on marrying Tommy Too, but we talk her down from that bell tower every time it comes up too--she doesn't need to be thinking about getting married. (I'm not opposed to marriage by any means, but I honestly don't think that 6 year olds need to be worried about it!)

all over the map said...

This was a great post.
I agree there is no hurry.
There is so much to learn as you said and I'm constantly disappointed in children having way too many freedoms. It makes their lives so much more complicated when they should be enjoying, growing and experiencing. It's way too much pressure on them. There's also a sense of hurry. As if life is going to pass them by before they turn eighteen, and oh dear they will have missed it all.
Communication is key and I am a firm believer in what God's plan and will is for us, as I reminded my 14yr step son on the way to school today. Why it's not cool or funny that inappropriate things that are glamourised on television and radio. It's difficult to break through those influences. They don't even realise, speaking of maturity and knowing themselves, that these "things" are constantly thrown in their face.

Daisy said...

Group dating is much more fun, too. My daughter and her friends, both male and female, "hung out" at each others' homes. We got to know the other parents on the circuit, and enjoyed hosting the kids often. When they were old enough to drive, they kept coming around -- and we loved it.

Nicole said...

I am so happy to see this post. Especially in a day and age where kids are pushed to grow up way too fast!
I have always known the rules I will enforce with my girls and they have known since they were 7. I COMPLETELY AGREE WITH ALL these rules as a rule of thumb for all society!
Great post!

Anonymous said...

I had one 'serious' relationship in high school. We behaved as any adult couple would living under separate roofs. It was rocky, distracting, and dramatic. I have to say now that I'm a senior finishing my undergraduate degree that the experience was at very least necessary to facilitate the transition into my adult life - especially when it came to negotiating the relationship I'm in now. My peers make dangerous decisions based on their lack of interpersonal and relationship experience, choices that I've (mostly) been able to avoid because of the 'diet' versions of those experiences I had with my relationship in high school, during which my own Mom was always a sounding board.

I don't think most teenagers will willingly roll over and set limits on their dating experiences just because their parents told them to. It seems more likely that they'll just hide the extent of the relationship.

Debo said...

Thank you for your insights on this challenging topic. We are facing this currently with one of our young men and rereading your article bolstered my confidence to stay firm. Solidarity in this parenting adventure is priceless!